I don’t imagine being a witch’s servant would be a very fulfilling lifestyle. I also don’t imagine that having a talking cat in your life would make that life any easier. Really, it seems like the whole affair would just be one endless cycle of misery. I guess that’s the price you pay for magic.

Familars, or familiar spirits to give them their proper name, are a class of magical creatures associated with witches and warlocks but also a part of the lore surrounding wise women and cunning folk. These creatures acted as servants and helpers to those they bonded with and often performed a variety of tasks and functions from prophecy to offering advice or wisdom on particular topics relevant to their partner’s interests. Familiar spirits have also been known to offer additional powers to their partner or relay information from demons or dark spirits to the practitioner.

While many stories and illustrations (this comic included!) like to depict witches’ helpful spirit as cats, most often black cats, these creatures often took on other outward appearances and some were able to change their shape at will. Along with the usual cat shape, there have been tales of bats, dogs, foxes, rats, and even human familiars. Though they are supernatural beings, there is a sense of normalcy that surrounds them, which seems to help them blend in and do the witch or warlock’s work without being detected. Many suspected witches, when asked about their familiars, would give goofy pet names or strange, demonic sounding ones when questioned. Some of these recorded names include: Grizell, Gridigut, and the terrifying Tom Reid.

The acquisition of one’s familiar varied greatly from person to person and from region to region. While some people were able to choose a creature and bind it to their will as a familiar spirit, others had a different experience. There are accounts where witches tell of meeting their familiars and being chosen by them rather than the other way around. Most often, this occurred during a period of extreme difficulty in the practitioner’s life. Perhaps the witch or cunning person was unable to make enough money to feed themselves or they had no shelter to call home. These poor down-on-their-luck individuals would happen to meet a strange supernatural creature that would offer them magic power. If the accused were a witch (rather than the more benign and helpful cunning-person) the implication here was that they had given up their soul to Satan in exchange for that power. Still other accounts speak of individuals directly seeking out the help of Satan through the use of demonic symbolism and prayer and receiving a familiar spirit to help guide them through the world of witchery.

Though reports describe these paranormal critters as being an essential part of witchcraft, we can only assume that at least a few of them were perhaps…not too keen on being tied to a witch or warlock through supernatural bonds.

If you were essentially a slave to some old hag, you might get a little catty too!